LYNN – That old adage you’ve heard millions of times about the City of Lynn has never been true, figuratively or literally. Unless you were born and raised on the mean streets of Sudbury, Lynn’s really never been any different from most other major urban enclave north of Boston—outside of those pretty sketchy flea markets on the Lynnway where Building 19 used to be. It’s just that you were raised to believe in the ideal of sucking on chili dogs outside the Tastee Freeze, Skylar.

But Lynn’s undergone a transformation in the past five years. Those sketchy markets? New waterfront condos. Central Square? More condos. That $900 apartment you rented four years ago? It’s now over $2000. Yes, you’ll still find a handful of bodegas and 99 cent stores downtown. But their continued survival may not be for long. Revitalization of Lynn has been an ongoing process for over three years, thanks to efforts led from city officials and Representative Seth Moulton. You’d think that might mean a boon to small businesses, public schools and affordable housing. But this is Lynn. What does it have to show for all of its redevelopment efforts?

Condos, Rose. Condos, Condos, Condos.

Lynn still remains a hub of cultural diversity for the time being, with a historically sizable Vietnamese population. Yet surprisingly, Vietnamese restaurants have been relatively scarce. In fact, I can only think of a small handful still around—with the venerable Pho Minh Ky being the most memorable. But they’ve never done pop-ups. Or crowdfunding. Or dinner parties. They’ve all been family owned and operated by successive generations since the first waves of Vietnamese immigrants started settling in the city during the 1980s. And they don’t describe themselves as a “boutique restaurant.”

Nightshade Noodle Bar is a different story.

Nightshade is the brainchild of Rachel Miller, the former Chef de Cuisine at Clio and former “30 under 30” winner for* Zagat’s* in 2013. She first began developing the concept for the restaurant in 2017 as the result of collaborative dinner parties (which she dubbed “Viet-Cajun”) and over 60 pop-ups, including wine pairings. In 2018, she launched a crowdfunding campaign through MainVest to fund her first brick and mortar, which opened this Thursday on Exchange Street at the former location of the Campus Coffee Shop.

The result is a 30 seat restaurant which they describe as “progressive Vietnamese-influenced small plates & eclectic noodle dishes.” Lunchtime offerings include the expected banh mis, chicken curry soup and vermicelli salads. Dinner offerings include curried beef in betel leaves, tamarind seafood soup, bone marrow fried rice and tamarind glazed fried chicken over a green papaya and herb salad with a coconut ranch dressing alongside an extensive cocktail and wine list.

“I want to be a neighborhood spot; I want to be comfortable,” Miller told last year. “We’ve done 95 percent of our pop-ups in Lynn. … We’ve been able to build our clientele, and I want to see something come to light.”

It probably shouldn’t be pointed out that belladonna is also a form of nightshade, Rachel.

Nightshade Noodle Bar is located at 73 Exchange St in Lynn and is open Wednesday – Friday from 11:00 am – 10:00 pm and Saturday – Sunday from 10:30 am – 10:00 pm. For more information, visit Nightshade Noodle Bar

Photo by Mae Mu on Unsplash